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Hum Mutat. 2006 Feb;27(2):211-2.

Detection of heterozygous SALL1 deletions by quantitative real time PCR proves the contribution of a SALL1 dosage effect in the pathogenesis of Townes-Brocks syndrome.

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Institut für Humangenetik und Anthropologie, Universität Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Townes-Brocks syndrome (TBS) is an autosomal dominantly inherited disorder characterized by ear, anal, limb, and renal malformations, and results from mutations in the gene SALL1. All SALL1 mutations previously found in TBS patients create preterminal termination codons. In accordance with the findings of pericentric inversions or balanced translocations, TBS was initially assumed to be caused by SALL1 haploinsufficiency. This assumption was strongly contradicted by a Sall1 mouse knock-out, because neither hetero- nor homozygous knock-out mutants displayed a TBS-like phenotype. A different mouse mutant mimicking the human SALL1 mutations, however, showed a TBS-like phenotype in the heterozygous situation, suggesting a dominant-negative action of the mutations causing TBS. We applied quantitative real time PCR to detect and map SALL1 deletions in 240 patients with the clinical diagnosis of TBS, who were negative for SALL1 mutations. Deletions were found in three families. In the first family, a 75 kb deletion including all SALL1 exons had been inherited by two siblings from their father. A second, sporadic patient carried a de novo 1.9-2.6 Mb deletion including the whole SALL1 gene, and yet another sporadic case was found to carry an intragenic deletion of 3384 bp. In all affected persons, the TBS phenotype is rather mild as compared to the phenotype resulting from point mutations. These results confirm that SALL1 haploinsufficiency is sufficient to cause a mild TBS phenotype but suggest that it is not sufficient to cause the severe, classical form. It therefore seems that there is a different contribution of SALL1 gene function to mouse and human embryonic development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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